x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Egyptian ceasefire proposal seeks to throw Israel a lifeline in Gaza conflict

Arabic press views on the Gaza conflict, featuring Abdel Bari Atwan (Rai Al Youn), Ilyas Harfoush (Al Hayat) and Areeb Al Rantawi (Addjustoor).

A Palestinian woman in the ruins of her Gaza City house after an Israeli air strike. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem
A Palestinian woman in the ruins of her Gaza City house after an Israeli air strike. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem

The quick welcome by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza indicates that the initiative was intended to throw Israel a lifeline rather than stem the flow of Gazan blood, argued Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based news website Rai Al Youm.

The Palestinian resistance movements did well to say they would reject the initiative until their demands are met. The Egyptian authorities announced the initiative through the media, as if seeking to impose it on resistance movements after getting approval from Israel and the US.

This move runs counter to all the principles of diplomacy. Egypt should be on the side of the victimised but if the Egyptian leadership intended to be a neutral mediator, it should have at least asked about the Palestinian side’s demands. Egypt will not regain its leadership position by trying to impose its initiatives on the Palestinians.

Only when the Egyptian leaders open the Rafah border crossing for good and treat the people of Gaza like human beings will it be acceptable for them to include an item in its initiative demanding that Tel Aviv open Israel’s border crossings with Gaza. More than 15,000 people are stuck on the Rafah crossing, including injured or ill people, along with students and holders of foreign residence permits.

It is perfectly legitimate and brave for Gaza’s resistance movements to continue to resist until their demands are fulfilled, including the lifting of the blockade, the release of prisoners, and the provision of a decent life to two million Palestinians living in a cage called Gaza, the writer said. The rejection proves that Palestinians are not afraid of the Israeli military.

Meanwhile, Israel’s offensive has failed and Mr Netanyahu is in a bind. He cannot cease the war without achieving the goal of stopping rockets being fired from Gaza, and he knows full well that a ground invasion of Gaza will come at a huge cost, politically, financially and militarily.

Mr Netanyahu was after a way out to minimise his losses and save face. That came in the Egyptian initiative, concocted by US secretary of state John Kerry and the Israeli premier. The Egyptian authorities were nothing but a messenger.

Ilyas Harfoush wrote in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat that despite the tremendous disparity of losses in Israel and Gaza, Hamas feels it is winning the face off. This is because it has forced Israelis to flee to shelters, and sirens have been warning of Gaza-launched rockets. The rockets continue despite Israeli raids on the sites Tel Aviv claims the rockets come from.

Hamas leaders feel they have reinvigorated their movement after concerns it had been sidelined after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its earlier break with its supporters, Tehran and Damascus, because of the Syrian crisis.

However, Hamas’s feelings of achievement disregard the tragic reality in Gaza that has been compounded by the latest Israeli attack, with a huge death toll and more damage done to already poor infrastructure. Hamas’s talks of gains also ignores the significant harm to the relationship between the West Bank and Gaza. These look increasingly like they are two separate entities, with very different economic and security situations.

Areeb Al Rantawi remarked in the Jordanian daily Addustoor that Gaza has always been an arena for the settling of scores between Arab and regional players.

Gaza is a rallying point for competing alliances. One axis involves Tehran, Damascus and Hizbollah. Another is Qatar, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn is competing with the Cairo-Riyadh-Ramallah axis. The common goal has been to support Hamas and prevent its collapse.

The first axis has sought to prove that “resistance” is the right option and to bring Hamas back into its ranks; the second axis converges with the Cairo-Saudi axis over Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and Iraq’s Nouri Al Maliki, but they have been at odds over the Egyptian situation since the removal of Mohammed Morsi and over Hamas controlling Gaza.

Cairo’s ceasefire initiative sought to reproduce the 2012 Brotherhood-sponsored agreement between Hamas and Israel so it could blame Hamas for rejecting now what it had previously praised from the Brotherhood-led government.

For its part, Hamas wants to end the Egyptian blockade on Gaza, with the help of its Qatari and Turkish allies. The idea is to improve the conditions of Egypt’s initiative in a way so Hamas can claim a much-needed victory in this offensive.

The Egypt-Hamas conflict, along with other Arab and regional conflicts, has entered new territory. Any serious revision of the initiative will not just be seen as a defeat to Israel but to Cairo as well.

Translated by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni